Coronavirus update: waste management sector


CIWM Briefing Note: This document draws on the latest guidance and understanding, and will be updated and reissued as appropriate.

Waste management companies are not on the list of non-essential businesses ordered to close (as of 23 March 2020)

The Government has issued advice and a list of the non-essential businesses that have been ordered to close as of 23rd March. The list can be found here. Waste management companies are not included on the list and businesses not on the list are currently allowed to remain open.

[UPDATE 27/03/20] Proof of essential business status

There is no official template that businesses and workers can use to demonstrate that they are in the essential worker category. However, employers should provide workers who are working outside their premises with a letter or copy of an email stating that they are waste disposal workers and are on the Government’s official list. If anyone experiences difficulties despite providing this to workers, please let CIWM know.

Health & Safety and Operational Considerations

Waste management companies of any size or type who continue operating during the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic must take all necessary measures to protect the workforce and the public and minimise the risk of spread of infection through observing the control measures introduced by the Government. The new measures introduced on 23 March are aimed at restricting day-to-day contact with other people to reduce the spread of the infection and full details are available here. The measures are:

  1. Requiring people to stay at home, except for very limited purpose
  2. Closing non-essential shops and community spaces
  3. Stopping all gatherings of more than two people in public

For the waste sector, unless otherwise directed in the coming days, this means that workers can travel to and from work, but only where work absolutely cannot be done from home. Whilst outside the home, workers should stay 2 metres apart from work colleagues and every effort should be made to minimise all meetings and other gatherings in the workplace. Key workers in critical sectors, of which waste disposal is one, can continue to send children to school if it is absolutely necessary.

In addition, it is essential that the highest levels of health and safety are observed, including providing adequate and hygienic washing facilities, updated risk assessments, deployment and use of appropriate PPE, and the suspension of activities that require suitably qualified and technically competent persons should these persons not be available. Sector organisations are working with UK governments and regulators to establish where regulatory flexibility may be needed to ensure that safe and effectives waste management activities can continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Construction Leadership Council has produced a set of Site Operating Procedures which are extremely relevant to waste sites and facilities and can be found here. CIWM be will looking to work with other organisations across the sector to develop some more tailored guidance.

[UPDATE 27/03/20] Guidance on social distancing for waste collection crews

WISH Guidance will be issued shortly by WISH on social distancing for waste collection crews. This will be posted on the WISH website as soon as it is available

[UPDATE 27/03/20] Operational guidance and service updates

Scotland: Resource Management Association Scotland has published ‘Public Health Protection Covid-19’ covering a number of key risks that are, have
and will continue to emerge as a direct consequence of the Covid-19 outbreak, including:

  • Staff Shortages
  • Safe Operation of HWRCs
  • Essential PPE
  • EfW and landfill capacity and status of recyclate, RDF and SRF markets
  • Areas requiring more guidance from Health Protection Scotland
  • Relaxation of the relevant existing legislation (or policy, as appropriate) with regard to licence/permit conditions to avoid public health risks of waste accumulating
  • Regulatory and Reporting Requirements
  • Clear, consistent and centrally co-ordinated communications.

Wales: Updated information from all Welsh Local Authorities has been collated by CIWM Cymru and is available here.

[UPDATE 27/03/20] Latest Health & Safety Executive guidance

HSE has provided some specific guidance in the following areas:

All HSE COVID-19 guidance can be found on the HSE website.

Regulation and Compliance

[UPDATE 27/03/20] Regulatory Position Statements

CIWM is expecting a number of Regulatory Position Statements from the Environment Agency and other regulators to support the waste and resources sector in the next few days. We will ensure that we communicate these out to our members immediately they become available.

[UPDATE 25/03/20] Latest update from the Environment Agency:

There have been a number of queries around Technically Competent Managers (TCMs). This is generic advice across all waste sectors and we appreciate some operators may be closing sites following the restrictions imposed by the Government. However, we are sure others will remain open.

TCM attendance during COVID-19 restrictions

  • We understand that many operators will be concerned about how they can satisfy attendance requirements whilst sites are running on reduced staffing levels and staff may well be ill or self-isolating. We will be pragmatic in our approach.
  • There is still a requirement to have a technically competent person as a requirement of the permit.
  • The TCM attendance hours are within the guidance on GOV.UK and they are an indication that site activities are in being overseen by a technically competent manager.
  • Where the TCM is self-isolating or sick and cannot attend the site. The operator should be able and capable of operating the plant or site safely through both their EMS and operations training.
  • Operators should:
  • Review their training and capability structure to ensure roles, responsibilities and accident plans are in place and reviewed to ensure that they are fit for purpose.
  • Ensure that remote systems are operational. Alarms systems where required, are fully operational.
  • Have a responsive duty roster to respond to incidents.
  • Notify us here the site cannot be safely monitored.
  • Record if their nominated TCM(s) are self-isolating in the site diary.

Difficulties in taking Continuing Competence tests

In view of Pearson Vue test centres now being closed and Continuing Competence tests not currently available and until the current Governments advice changes, we will not regard the failure to complete a continuing competence assessment that becomes due after 16 March as being a failure to comply with the  Wamitab Technical Competence scheme. If this applies to you or your Technically Competence Manager, please contact your EA local area team or account manager technical lead and Wamitab as soon as possible.

Environmental Permit Operators Certificate (EPOC)

[UPDATE 25/03/20] Latest update on EPOC courses:

Environmental Permit Operators Certificate (EPOC) courses for March and April have been cancelled. Anyone booked on a cancelled courses will be accommodated on future courses and can use their booking confirmation/ rearrangement confirmations to “demonstrate intent” to take the course to the regulator.

Bookings are still being taken for May onwards and again booking confirmation is sufficient at the moment for the regulator. If these courses cannot go ahead, CIWM will keep a record of anyone who registers an interest in wanting to book a course as soon as the current situation allows.

The regulator will be provided with this list as a demonstration of the intent are anyone needing to complete an EPOC qualification as part of their demonstration of Technical Competence.

Public sector-procurement support for suppliers

The Cabinet Office has published a Procurement Policy Note Procurement Policy Note providing guidance for public bodies on payment of their suppliers to ensure service continuity during and after the current COVID-19 outbreak.

It states that contracting authorities must act now to ensure suppliers at risk are in a position to resume normal contract delivery once the outbreak is over and lists a number of priority actions for contracting authorities to:

  • Urgently review their contract portfolio and inform suppliers who they believe are at risk that they will continue to be paid as normal (even if service delivery is disrupted or temporarily suspended) until at least the end of June.
  • Put in place the most appropriate payment measures to support supplier cash flow; this might include a range of approaches such as forward ordering, payment in advance/prepayment, interim payments and payment on order (not receipt).
  • If the contract involves payment by results then payment should be on the basis of previous invoices, for example the average monthly payment over the previous three months.
  • To qualify, suppliers should agree to act on an open book basis and make cost data available to the contracting authority during this period. They should continue to pay employees and flow down funding to their subcontractors.
  • Ensure invoices submitted by suppliers are paid immediately on receipt (reconciliation can take place in slower time) in order to maintain cash flow in the supply chain and protect jobs.

Business support schemes and announcements

The Chancellor has today (24 March) set out an updated package of measures to support public services, people and businesses and full information is available here. Measures include:

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Under this scheme, all UK employers will be able to access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary for those employees that would otherwise have been laid off during this crisis.

To access this scheme, employers need to:

  • designate affected employees as ‘furloughed workers,’ and notify your employees of this change – changing the status of employees remains subject to existing employment law and, depending on the employment contract, may be subject to negotiation
  • submit information to HMRC about the employees that have been furloughed and their earnings through a new online portal (HMRC will set out further details on the information required)

HMRC will reimburse 80% of furloughed workers wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month. HMRC is currently working to set up the system for reimbursement and we expect more detail on this shortly.

Deferring VAT and Income Tax payments

The Government has deferred VAT payments for three months from 20 March 2020 until 30 June 2020. All UK businesses are eligible and the deferral is automatic and does not have to be applied for.

Businesses will not need to make a VAT payment during this period. Taxpayers will be given until the end of the 2020 to 2021 tax year to pay any liabilities that have accumulated during the deferral period. VAT refunds and reclaims will be paid by the government as normal.

For Income Tax Self-Assessment, payments due on the 31 July 2020 will be deferred until the 31 January 2021. The deferral is automatic and does not have to be applied for.

Statutory Sick Pay relief package for SMEs

The Government is bringing forward legislation to allow small-and medium-sized businesses and employers to reclaim Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) paid for sickness absence due to COVID-19. To be eligible you must be a UK-based business employing fewer than 250 employees as of 28 February 2020. The refund will cover up to 2 weeks’ SSP per eligible employee who has been off work because of COVID-19 and employers with fewer than 250 employees will be eligible.

Support for businesses through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme

The temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme will support SMEs with access to loans, overdrafts, invoice finance and asset finance of up to £5 million and for up to 6 years. The government will also make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, so smaller businesses will benefit from no upfront costs and lower initial repayments.

The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan (subject to pre-lender cap on claims) to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. To be eligible the business must be UK-based, with turnover of no more than £45 million per year and must meet the other British Business Bank eligibility criteria.

Support for larger firms through the COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility

Under the new Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility Covid-19 Corporate Financing Facility, the Bank of England will buy short term debt from larger companies. This is designed to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans. All non-financial companies that meet the criteria set out on the Bank of England’s website are eligible and the scheme is now available for applications.

HMRC Time To Pay Scheme

All businesses and self-employed people in financial distress, and with outstanding tax liabilities, may be eligible to receive support with their tax affairs through HMRC’s Time To Pay service. This will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Driving tests and MOTs for heavy vehicles suspended for up to 3 months

Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency has suspended MOT testing and suspended driver testing except for those working in critical sectors. More information here.

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